The Scout 281 XSS strikes a stylish profile that belies its professional fishing amenities. Some say it’s too pretty to fish. We say it is one of the best-looking badass fishing platforms on the water. It is also one of the latest in the growing number of big hybrid bay boats available with twin outboards.
Starting at the obvious, the 281 features a tumblehome transom, flush-to-the-gunwale aft and forward casting decks, and a tough, comfortable-on-the-feet, closed-cell EVA foam sole that lends the deck the classic look of an old mahogany inboard. And though it bristles with traditional, even retro boat design and styling features, every such element contributes to its cruising comfort and fish-catching abilities.
The wide 9-foot-4-inch beam and shallow 15.5-degree transom deadrise result in a skinny 14-inch draft, less than most other big bay boats we’ve tested. And yet the vessel carved beautiful turns without sliding out or slipping sideways. At rest, the beam and deadrise formula gives stability that lets the whole crew stand to port or starboard without tender heeling to threaten footing or balance. Its length and solid construction—all vacuum-infused E-glass and carbon-fiber-enhanced molding of the hull, deck and stringers—sheared through chop without shaking the crew. In the nastiest offshore conditions, you might want to slow down to a lower planing speed (which is about 18 mph, we found in our testing) and let the boat scoot over the waves. In any case, the 281 XSS provides a surprisingly smooth ride, whether you’re skimming across a shallow bay or heading out to fish the edge of the Gulf Stream or an offshore wreck.
We tested the boat with and an inline-six-cylinder, 400 hp supercharged Mercury Verado, now replaced by Merc’s new 400 V-10, which shows similar performance in power and economy. While the photos show a single Merc 450R, this outboard currently is not available for the 281 XSS; however, you can opt for a single Yamaha 450 XTO outboard to propel the double-step hull. Twin 250 or 300 Mercs are also available power options. We tapped 55 mph with the 400 Verado, a number not exceeded by the V-10. Best fuel efficiency was 2.6 mpg at 4,500 rpm and 34 mph, which provides an impressive cruising range with the 126-gallon fuel capacity.
At the helm, electronic throttle-and-shift and power steering ease handling. The hardtop was dark-toned underneath to cut down on glare. Dual Garmin displays feature a digital-switching screen that allows the skipper to run devices through a reliable electronic bus system via the Garmin touchscreen. Scout uses aircraft-quality acrylic for the windshield, eliminating the waffling, checkerboard effect that polarized sunglasses reveal on tempered glass. We liked the molded carbon-fiber support structure for the hardtop; it proved solid and was sleekly shaped to follow the boat’s lines.
The Garmin displays, along with optional Power-Pole shallow-water anchors and a bow-mounted trolling motor, can be factory-installed. We like this because who better to mount equipment on the boat than the factory that built it?
The spacious flush-to-gunwale casting decks fore and aft are traditional bay boat features versus the abbreviated decks of newer hybrid bay boats. The platforms leave plenty of cockpit and foredeck space for seating beneath the bolstered inwales and casting deck bulkhead. That seating makes this boat comfy when cruising with large crews.
Some might say the flush-to-gunwale decks could allow gear to roll off, and they’d be right. But in walking and fishing the deck, we liked the rub-rail-to-rub-rail footing they offered.
These decks eliminate tripping on shallow step-ups while casting a rod, netting a fish, or retrieving a line to moor the boat. Leaving gear lying on a big bay boat while underway is a bad idea anyway, and we think the trade-off is worthwhile.
The helm leaning post is molded of fiberglass, skipping the pipework typical on many bay boats. Molded into the seatback are four rod holders poised over a rigging station that includes plenty of tackle-storage drawers on both sides of the seats, flanking a large 18-gallon livewell with a clear acrylic window in front. Additional tackle storage is tucked into the convenient steps that lead to the aft deck.
Raw- and freshwater washdowns tucked into the rigging station flanking the livewell. Fish boxes prove generous, with two in the aft deck, one to port and one to starboard. A center lid covers four dedicated fender-storage tubes. There’s spacious access to the bilge plumbing beneath the aft deck’s foldout seating.
The 281 is designed to accept a bow-mounted trolling motor, with battery stowage in the forward compartment covered by the center seat, which doubles as a hatch. It opens space inside the console (often used for batteries) for a head, sink and storage, as well as access to the back of the dash panel.
Scout also designed this boat to be a crowd-pleaser, with plenty of seating. The coup de grâce is the large foredeck conversation pit wrapping from port to starboard from the forward console to the bow casting deck, which also sports ample dry storage underneath and also could be utilized as an enormous cooler.
|Weight:||5,457 lb. (w/o power)|
|Price:||$238,069 (base w/ single 400 hp outboard)|
Scout Boats – Summerville, South Carolina; scoutboats.com